(CNN) — The government of south africa is studying the possibility of allowing women to have several husbands, a proposal that has caused a stir among the country conservatives.
The proposal to allow polyandry was included in a green paper (a government document that anyone interested can study and make suggestions on, especially before legislation is changed or new legislation is created) from the South African Department of Home Affairs, which is intended to make marriage more inclusive.
The option is one of several in a wide-ranging document, but has sparked intense debate in South Africa.
Polygamy, in which men marry multiple wives, is legal in the country.
“South Africa inherited a marriage regime based on Calvinist and Western Christian traditions,” the document states, adding that current marriage laws “are not informed by a global policy based on constitutional values and an understanding of the dynamics of modern society”.
The document indicates that the current law allows the marriage of minors and does not contemplate couples who change sex and want to remain married without going through divorce, among other defects.
As part of the push to strengthen marriage policy, the department consulted traditional leaders, as well as human rights activists and other groups, on the key issues.
activists in favor
Human rights activists “claimed that equality requires that polyandry be legally recognized as a form of marriage.”
Officials found that people had very different views on marriage, but one of the proposals put forward is to develop a “gender-neutral” marriage scheme.
“South Africa could end the categorization of marriages based on race, sexual orientation, religion and culture,” the suggestion states.
“That means South Africa (could) adopt a dual system of monogamous or polygamous marriages.”
Due to the element of gender neutrality, this option would apply to both women and men if passed into law and thus allow polyandry.
Voices against the proposal to allow polyandry in South Africa
The country’s conservatives were stunned at the suggestion.
One prominent face criticizing the proposal is Musa Mseleku, a reality star who has four wives.
“I am for equality,” Mseleku said in a posted video on his own YouTube channel in May. In it she stated that polyandry would cast doubt on the paternity of the children.
“Which family will that child belong to?” asks Mseleku.
“More than that, we are spiritual people,” he added. “Our spirits, our creator, has seen to it that we are created this way.”
“The mentality is alien,” he said.
Mseleku also expanded on Facebook.
“Protecting our existence…is important for both the current and future generations,” he wrote in a May 17 post.
“Let’s defend our culture, tradition and customs by participating in this process. Let’s oppose polyandry outright.”
The idea that polyandry is not authentically African was also prevalent among religious leaders, according to the Department of Internal Affairs.
The document noted that during discussions with traditional leaders, it became clear that they believed “only men are allowed to have multiple spouses.”
The document adds: “Consequently, traditional leaders consider polyandry to be an unacceptable practice because it is not of African origin.”
The Rev. Kenneth Meshe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, has also opposed the proposal.
In an interview with South African broadcaster eNCA, Meshhoe said that while polygamy was “accepted practice,” polyandry was not.
“Men are jealous and possessive,” Meshoe said, explaining why a multiple-husband marriage wouldn’t work.
Later in the document, officials said that “while some stakeholders believed in the practice of polygamy, there were also those who opposed it. This applies equally to the practice of polyandry. Ironically, stakeholders who believed in the practice of polygamy were opposed to the practice of polyandry”.
The South African government is holding a consultation on the document until June 30, and is inviting comments on all proposals.